Sniffer Mission!
Mean Mr. Mustard!
Killer Spades

by: Johnny (E.O.D.) Hubbs
© 1998

C/229th AHB, Ist Air Cav.
Biên Hòa, Vietnam 1971-1972

B/229thAHB, Biên Hòa 71-72, DoorGunner & Proud of it, "Killer Spades"


Sniffer Mission -
While attached as a door-gunner to C Company/229th AHB. 1st Air Cav., in Biên Hòa1971-1972, my assignment for the day was flying in a routine Sniffer Mission. This consisted of a three foot long hose being attached to the skids of a UH-1 helicopter that picked up aerial dust particles and pin-pointed any movement below.
      The technicians assigned to read the gauges of this sniffer were very good at what they did and knew immediately of any movement below whether visible or not.
      During these type missions we would fly low level, about 75 to 100 feet off the ground-- sometimes skimming tree tops. The techs were doing their jobs of reading the dials on the sniffer and the rest of us were visibly looking out the doors for any type of enemy movement.
      The flight had gone without anything unusual happening and we were basically sitting back enjoying the cool air and scenery below us. Suddenly, I spotted smoke coming from a clearing which I approximated at 2,000 yards at our 2:00 o'clock position. Since all friendlies had earlier been cleared of this area, I went on the intercom to the Aircraft Commander (AC) and reported a suspected enemy position at 2:00 o'clock.
      The AC, when spotting the smoke himself, immediately went into a banking turn and we raced to the clearing, priming and preparing our M-60's. It was only seconds when we began our approach on the clearing and from my view from the right side door of the Huey, I could clearly see the enemy running for their weapons that they had neatly stacked in the clearing. As we made our first run on the clearing, I could tell immediately that the runners weren't VC---but hard core NVA---and popped red smoke on them. We began taking fire from the ground---my AC said open up gunners, and we did using up about 300 rounds from each M-60.
      Although, this happened within seconds I can remember clearly as we approached the seven NVA I could see one of them lock and load his weapon and see the flashes of his AK-47 as we approached. For some reason, they weren't using their usual green tracers, but from the amount of muzzle flashes that I saw, we were lucky that none of their rounds found their mark.
      As we passed directly over him, I could clearly see the face and eyes of that one enemy soldier and wonder to this day, if he made it out and remembers the look on my face.
      Since we had a Snake (Cobra Gunship) in the vicinity flying support for us, we made another run on the clearing and let loose with our 60's through the red smoke before the gunship came in. We had expended almost a thousand rounds of M-60 rounds already on the enemy but was nothing in comparison to what that Cobra, Mean Mr. Mustard, unloosed on them! With its rockets and gattling guns, the Cobra turned what was a peaceful clearing into an inferno. To this day, I have the greatest respect for those Cobra pilots.
      Back at base camp, I thought to myself that this had been one hell of a ride. I remembered the eyes of that NVA soldier, which still burned into my mind. I thanked God for getting me through this day, and wondered if maybe God had also looked upon him---and whether he perhaps was sitting somewhere with the memory of my eyes burning into him.

That day was only one day of many I had left in-country, and I had to live each one day by day. A door-gunner's job is close down and personal---unlike a zoomie that streaks in and out at a couple hundred miles per hour. Door gunners can count the gnats on a water buffalo's ass, and can see how black the beatlenut teeth are mamasan has as she grins (innocently, she hopes), praying I won't blow her away this time, by the time I left Vietnam, the burning eyes of that one NVA weren't the only ones seared into my mind and continue to haunt me to this day--especially at night in my semi-sleep when my guard is down.

Johnny: Mean Mr Mustard, was an F/79 ARA snake, Blue Max. It was shot down on 20 June 72 at An Loc with Lt. Shields, AC and Cpt Northrup, Copilot Gunner. Aircraft was hit shortly after another snake from F/9 with Breuer and Townsend were shot out of the air flying low level when an SA-7 missile was fired almost parallel to the ground, left the crew no where to go, and just augered in.
      Shields and Northrup survived the crash of Mean Mr Mustard. Shields was hit by .51 and Northrup was pulling him from the aircraft when the NVA came out of the bunkers they crashed on and killed them both. Bodies were recovered the next day.
      Those sniffer missions would drive me crazy up front, because you had to look forward as we flew 90 knots over the trees on a heading designated by the Cobra that was up high. I would get disoriented during my crosscheck if I spent too much time looking at the turn and slip because all the stuff whizzing by the chin bubble. When the Peter Pilot had the controls, I would become totally convinced all scout pilots that spent everyday in those trees, were INSANE.

Mike E. Sloniker, A/229

Mike and Don: Since we had a Snake (Cobra Gunship) in the vicinity flying support for us, we made another run on the clearing and let loose with our 60's through the red smoke before the gunship came in. We had expended almost a thousand rounds of M-60 rounds already on the enemy but was nothing in comparison to what that Cobra, Mean Mr. Mustard, unloosed on them! With its rockets and gattling guns, the Cobra turned what was a peaceful clearing into an inferno. To this day, I have the greatest respect for those Cobra pilots.
      About the crew I knew in Vietnam as "Mean Mr. Mustard". May they rest in peace, these guys were the best. I'll never forget the times we had in An Loc April of 72. Those young men would cover us from one end of hell to the next. Those cobra gun-ships were the biggest and badest boys on the block. They took pride in what they did and they wanted to be here. No one ever put you in a helicopter an less you wanted to be in it. Thanks to Mean Mr. Mustard and it's crew for more of us making it back home.
      If you get a chance, Don, please put a flag on their names for me. They covered my ass in Vietnam and this may be my only thanks to them now. I did the story as I remembered it, but I was thinking how nice it would be to have the pilots of her to write me and say "Hi, I flew Mean Mr. Mustard." I guess that will never happen. Give me one week and I will have a picture of this bird.

Mike and Don: Since we had a Snake (Cobra Gunship) in the vicinity flying support for us, we made another run on the clearing and let loose with our 60's through the red smoke before the gunship came in. We had expended almost a thousand rounds of M-60 rounds already on the enemy but was nothing in comparison to what that Cobra, Mean Mr. Mustard, unloosed on them! With its rockets and gattling guns, the Cobra turned what was a peaceful clearing into an inferno. To this day, I have the greatest respect for those Cobra pilots.
      About the crew I knew in Vietnam as "Mean Mr. Mustard". May they rest in peace, these guys were the best. I'll never forget the times we had in An Loc April of 72. Those young men would cover us from one end of hell to the next. Those cobra gun-ships were the biggest and badest boys on the block. They took pride in what they did and they wanted to be here. No one ever put you in a helicopter an less you wanted to be in it. Thanks to Mean Mr. Mustard and it's crew for more of us making it back home.
      If you get a chance, Don, please put a flag on their names for me. They covered my ass in Vietnam and this may be my only thanks to them now. I did the story as I remembered it, but I was thinking how nice it would be to have the pilots of her to write me and say "Hi, I flew Mean Mr. Mustard." I guess that will never happen. Give me one week and I will have a picture of this bird.

Thanks, Heli-vets, for the Friendship
John (E.O.D.) Hubbs, B/229thAHB
Biên Hòa 71-72
DoorGunner & Proud of it
"Killer Spades"

 

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